Nostalgia: New book explores history of grey area, including Havering, ‘between’ London and Essex

17:41 04 June 2013

London's Metropolitan Essex by Andrew Summers and John Debenham

London's Metropolitan Essex by Andrew Summers and John Debenham


Nearly 50 years have passed since the London Government Act slashed 12 miles off the western border of Essex and handed them to the capital.

And yet people from outer London boroughs like Havering and Redbridge still refer to themselves as Essex residents.

Now a new book by a pair whose histories straddle both counties has been devoted to the “grey area” that Essex seems reluctant to let go.

Andrew Summers and John Debenham will be signing copies of their book London’s Metropolitan Essex at Swan Books in Corbets Tey Road, Upminster, on Saturday, June 15, at 1pm.

The compendium includes stories about Romford’s brewery, greyhound racing and Oliver Cromwell ordering the sale of Havering Palace.

So what still ties Havering to Essex two generations after we started paying our council tax to a London borough?

“As you come further out of London you do tend to get more green areas, and more chunks of Hainault Forest,” said Andrew, who now lives in Hadleigh but was born in London.

“You still see on old schools, particularly in Dagenham, the old Essex County shield.

“Romford obviously belongs to the London Borough of Havering, with all the benefits of being part of the metropolitan area, but psychologically they still think they’re part of Essex.

“We’re in two minds about it – everyone moans about Essex when it comes to things like Towie, but they like the fact Essex is in the news all the time.”

The change came on April 1, 1965, when eight per cent of Essex’s soil – but more than a third of its population – was handed over to the new Greater London Council.

London and Essex had already started to sprawl into each other, and Essex County Council was too far away to effectively govern areas that were nearer London than Chelmsford.

Although Romford and Hornchurch were transferred into London at the same time as Stratford and Walthamstow, the “Essex” tag seems to persist in some areas more than others – chiefly those with RM and IG postcodes.

Andrew said that was partly to do with changes in demographics.

“The population of Romford and Ilford hasn’t changed as dramatically as it has somewhere like Waltham Forest,” he reasoned. “The population of Walthamstow must have turned over twice in the last 20 years.”


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